2022 Colfax Half Marathon Plan

Plotting my recovery from COVID-19 and my path to maybe, just maybe, managing another PR in May.

Assumed audience: People interested in fitness, especially in running, extra especially in serious (but amateur) half marathon training.

Two fairly big things happened for my fitness this fall:

  1. I ran the Colfax Half Marathon in 1:27:35 — which is probably my best-ever performance, adjusting for altitude; it was my third-fastest finish and it was in Denver (vs. Raleigh for the two I ran faster, in 2014 and 2015).

  2. Two weeks later, I came down with a breakthrough case of COVID-19, which quite thoroughly tanked my fitness levels. Between the three weeks I could not run at all and the fact that the bug goes after your lungs, I lost ~10% of my aerobic pace performance.

I’m running the same race again in May. Coming out of the strong finish in October, I figured I had a shot at catching up to or maybe even passing my absolute PRs if I could train consistently and build on the base I had established. I am much less confident of that now, and am more or less just aiming to get back to where I was this year.

But. I found my stride with this training season in terms of properly disciplined training, and I want to build on that. This was the first season I really forced myself to do tempo and speed work consistently, and it paid off. If I can recover my base and then build in that consistent rhythm with tempo and speed, I think I can get back to where I was. If I can do better than I did this year, I might still be able to set a PR again.

I mapped out my rough plan for the season while on an easy aerobic run earlier, and figured I’d share it here, as being of potential interest for other runners out there.

This is a serious-but-amateur training plan for a half marathon. If you’ve never run a half marathon before, I highly recommend finding a different plan. You can train up to a half reasonably well in 3 months, with a much lower work load than this. The point of this plan is for me to perform well enough to get another top-50 finish. It is hard. By the end of the season, I will be running ~45 miles/week, with about a third of that being hard speed and tempo work.

My tentative plan looks roughly like this:

Month Planned efforts
Dec. 21

Base building! The goal will be getting back up to 20+ miles-per-week across 4 – 5 days of running weekly. Runs will max out at 6 (*maaaaybe* 7) miles.

Jan. 22

More base building, also starting to add some anaerobic work.

  • 4 – 6-mile aerobic
  • 7→10-mile long
  • Introducing tempo and speed work (alternating one each week):
    • 5-mile tempo
    • 4-mile speed
    • 5-mile tempo
    • 4½-mile speed
Feb. 22

Continuing to increase aerobic base and starting to amp up anaerobic conditioning.

  • 4 – 6-mile aerobic
  • 11→13-mile long (including a drop-back week)
  • Alternating weeks for anaerobic work:
    • 6-mile tempo
    • 5-mile speed
    • 7-mile tempo
    • 5½-mile speed
Mar. 22

Continuing to increase aerobic base and starting to amp up anaerobic conditioning.

  • 4 – 6-mile aerobic
  • 14→16-mile long (with one drop-back week)
  • Alternating weeks for anaerobic work:
    • 7-mile tempo
    • 6-mile tempo, 5-mile speed
    • 6-mile speed
    • 7-mile tempo, 6-mile speed
Apr. 22

Maintaining aerobic base and intensifying anaerobic conditioning.

  • 5 – 6-mile aerobic (4-miles on post-long-run recovery days)
  • 14 – 16-mile long
  • Consistent weekly anaerobic work:
    • 7-mile tempo, 6-mile speed
    • 8-mile tempo, 6-mile speed
    • 8-mile tempo, 7-mile speed
    • 8-mile tempo, 7-mile speed
May. 22

Taper and race! The last pre-taper long run is May 1, and the race is May 15.

First week:

  • 13.1-mile long
  • 4-mile recovery
  • 6- and 4-mile aerobic runs
  • 6-mile tempo

Second week:

  • 10-mile long
  • 4-mile recovery
  • 5-mile tempo
  • 5k easy
  • 2-miles at race pace (day before race)

This is definitely aspirational, and I have no doubt I will miss some of those runs, but if I can stick to more-or-less this schedule, I think I will do well.

Notable bits that the table view there doesn’t really show:

  • I will likely end up substituting some of those aerobic runs for aerobic bike rides of similar duration, especially because this whole training season is a snowy time of year. I may do the same for some of especially the early tempo work (but never the speed work).

  • The tempo and speed work will always involve hills just because of where I live, but will sometimes be utterly brutal hill work.

  • All told, and accounting for one week this month I know I will not be able to run, there are 22 total weeks available for my training between now and the race, which makes for a 20-week training season with a 2-week taper. In practice, that may vary a bit: if I get sick, for example; but overall, it’s about the same as I did for the October race, and my run today was almost exactly the same pace as a similar run in similar conditions at the same point in that training season.

So: here’s hoping for another PR… or at least to match what I did in October! And if I do, I will be shouting Take that, COVID!” as I cross the finish line.